So I awoke after yet another rested sleep, and went down to have breakfast with the family.
They boys, Seth and AJ were super cool. AJ and his girlfriend were on break, but due to the demanding lifestyle of a law student, headed off to the library before getting ready for their cruise. Seth was more my age, and went out with his girlfriend for most of the day. Steve had to go teach a flying lesson, and was out for the day, so I took advantage, and spent the afternoon placing phone calls to local crew agencies and marinas, and Googled the crap out of my computer.
Steve saved my life, and gave me a power cord adapter that fit my computer, as mine had completely crapped out. I dont know what I would have done otherwise.
I got some good starts in the hunt, but nothing cemented. I found a guy in Ft Lauderdale who was going to do everything he could to find me a ride.
I Internet-ed it up for the majority of the day, and when dinner came around, Ellen had made a wonderful feast. Steaks by Steve, Crab stuffed Salmon, grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes and garden salad was the menu. Of course dark imported beers, Seth's contribution.
We were all together, a full table of laughter, and great convo. AJ and I discussed law, Seth reminisced some boyhood trouble stories, and we talked well past the dinner digestion.
Since it was spring break, Seth had a few buddies come by to head out with us for drinks. Todd and AF were on break from UCF in Orlando, and came by before we went down to Atlantic Ave. The boys were cooler than cool, and thought the idea of my trip was bananas. We hung out in the living room for a bit, and after I shared a few stories of life on the road, we headed out for a night on the town, DelRay Beach.
We went in two cars, and met at a busy sports bar on the strip. AJ ordered up some pitchers and the seven of us hung out for hours. It was great, as there are times I miss hanging out with the boys back home, and I'm always alone, not knowing anyone. Its nice to just 'be a kid' again. I know I'm off doing my thing, and most people tell me I'm 'living the dream', or that they're jealous and live vicariously through me, but they forget about the downside. I miss hanging out with friends, and I miss stability. Although its funny, because whenever I'm at home, hanging out, I want to be on the road, somewhere else. We always want what we cant have.
So anyways, we shared a bunch of beers, and Seth being the bevvy connoisseur he is ordered me a frosty Guinness. Yum. It got pretty late, and they were all leaving for a Spring Break cruise the next day, so we packed it in just past midnight.
It was perfect timing, as the minute I laid my head down, the spins kicked in, and I needed sleep.
I awoke once again well past what I should have woken up at, and went downstairs for breakfast and the United match. It was pretty nervy, as they only squeaked past Wolverhampton on a smart Paul Scholes finish.Seth invited me to hangout on the beach for the afternoon. We drove down in his souped up Mustang and found ourselves a spot on the crowded beach. Todd and AF came to join, and we kicked it for the afternoon. I commented numerous times how cool it must have been for them to jet to the beach right after high school. Very jealous of the kids who grew up on the beach.
As sunny as it was, and it was sunny, the wind was pretty lively, and kind of put a damper on the beach day. We stayed until it was just too cold, and went down to Atlantic Ave. Seth got us a slice of pizza, and we sat on the patio, watching the beach goers and tourists stroll by. After he attempted suicide by table(he didnt, just cut his foot really bad on the table stand) we headed back to the house.
AF, Cindy and Seth watched Tropic Thunder while I was upstairs on the Internet.
I got digging in a book I picked up when I went to the marina with Steve, which is the boat hitchers Bible. Its a yachting directory, and had a list of crew agencies. I gave a few a ring, some were promising, nothing positive.
Then I gave a ring to Crews4yachts, and got redirected to Mitchell. Mitchell was Aussie, and a booker/recruiter and immediately took interest in the project, particularly the not-spending-a-dollar-for-a-year bit, and searching for human compassion. We joked when he asked 'hows that going?'
Mitchell promised to do everything in his power to secure me a boat, and that he would get back to me. He then told me he should be able to get me a boat directly to Africa, which would change my plans, for the better.
-The original plan was to hitch with the current(very hard finding one across the Atlantic during this season) and go across the Pacific, through the Panama canal to southeast Asia. I would then hitch land from Asia to Africa. Yes. Yes I am crazy.
So after a few positive phone calls and leads, I headed downstairs to have din din.Ellen had just cooked for what seemed an army after a week long war while on a serious case of the munchies. She took the night off, and ordered us some Chinese, as Steve wasn't home for dinner. We watched the the end of the Green Mile and the beginning of Forrest Gump(one of my favs) as it was Tom Hanks week on some channel.
I again spent the evening computering.
Steve hooked up DirectTV in the room, and I got to watch soccer for hours and hours. And I did just that, as I didn't get to bed until about 5am, writing and uploading photos.
I woke up past noon, and said bye to Seth. Seth was THE man, and did alot for me. I told him we'll be in touch, and said goodbye to him and Cindy.
I was so knackered, I almost wanted to go back to bed, but had already slept in, so I started to pack the bags, as I was leaving shortly.
I got everything together, and went down to load the bags into the car. I'm pretty good for not collecting things(despite how much cool stuff I come across and want to keep) but my golly B1 is getting fat. I know things expand in the heat, but no way. My bags weigh well over 80lbs, and its pretty bananas carrying them around, but I promise, I only have exactly what I need, and nothing I don't.
I said my goodbyes and thanked Ellen for everything. For the past few days, she had done so much to accommodate, and make sure I was always full, and that every need was met. She had treated me like one of her own, and told me that my company and conversation was reciprocal thanks enough, but I know that what they did for me couldn't be balanced. Steve and Ellen were amazing, and its people like them that make this trip a success. I cannot begin to describe how much they helped me. If its any indication, just before we left, Steve gave me a GPS he doesn't have use for.
We got in the car, and backed out of the house I was calling home for the past few days. We had been joking about how well they had fed me, and how I had adjusted to the warm beds, and how difficult it will be for me to re-enter the reality of this project. I can tell you in 20/20 hindsight how accurate this is.
Steve had told me about the park he helped build in Boca Raton, and wanted to take me to see it before I left.
I had kind of just pictured a climber-esque park where kids play 'Grounders' and stuff. Hardly. It was a massive, public science park, with the coolest things Ive ever seen in a park and more. It was several years ago, and they had to overcome alot of adversaries to finish production, but when it was complete, it was a success, and still is today. When we were there, dozens of families were watching hundreds of kids running around screaming. There were tunnels, zip lines, towers, moving parts the whole works. It doesn't sound like much, but I was blown away by Steve's contribution to the massive project, and how much it affected the population. So many families were able to spend the day and allow their kids to engage, free of charge.
We continued down the I95, and he took me into downtown Ft Lauderdale, as I didn't want to return to the hostile war zone of Miami. Not at all hospitable, it wasn't even the best bet in finding a boat; FtL is a much busier harbour, more boats, and more opportunities. It was also a better beach, and cooler people.
He dropped me off on Los Olas, a main street in town. There was an art fair going on, and lots of people were out and about.
It was time to leave Steve. Never when I stood there in the airport a few days ago did I think it would have turned out like this. Mind you the entire trip has been this way. Steve had gone so far beyond compassion and generosity. He always ensured everything was perfect, and gave me some very necessary items for this trip. Even at the last minute, he hid a Swiss army knife in my kit.
I shook his hand, and tried to let him know how much I was affected by his unparalleled kindness. Truth be told, they will never know how far their gestures went. I wasn't in the best of moods and mindset when I met him in Miami, and left with a totally new lease on this trip. Every time I thanked him for whatever he had done at the time, it was always a 'don't worry about it' or 'no big deal', but it was. A very big deal. Hitching the Eastern Seaboard, filming a project on human compassion, I saw alot of things, but I know their degree of kindness was a rarity.
He let me know his contact information, and told me if I ever needed....
I think even if I was laying on the side of the roads with vultures pecking at my eyeballs, I would still refuse to call, as he had already done so much for me.
I watched Steves bimmer drive away, and turned back and stared at B1 laying on the road. Such a lazy butthead, B1 is getting to be too fat. I'm worried how long before the straps bust out. The bag I have; North Face's Prophet 65 is one of the top packs they offer, and is often on the equipment list for teams heading to Everest. I remember sitting in a waiting room a while back in Vancouver, opening the pages of National Geographic Adventurer and seeing the TNF team all rocking the exact one I have, and looked into it. Its the Team bag, and Im stoked to have it, despite its weight problem.
Well the bag is holding up great, but I have yet to put it through some real tests. B2 is good stuff, a super padded, expandable day pack,(also TNF) but its mostly camera equipment, and its awkward sometimes. After about an hour my shoulders are screaming, after several hours I'm screaming.
I loaded up much to the curiosity/disapproval of the evening dinner crowd, wondering A) what I am doing and B) how many guns are in those bags. I'm sure those weren't the actual thoughts, but the looks on their faces certainly seemed to say so.
I wandered down Los Olas, and even tried hitching as I walked. Every other car was a brand new Mercedes, and the ones in between were 2 seater sports cars. Lets just say my thumb was out for 2 minutes, as an attempt at self-entertainment.
I walked past the numerous yachts, massive terra cota houses and over the port bridges to A1A, the street stretching Florida's entire east coast. You can drive along the beach for hundreds of miles, and it takes you right into the West Keys.
The sun was setting, and I was getting pretty hungry. Tons of spring breakers were out and about, and the bars were packed with people. I ambled down the sidewalk, collecting curious stares, and found an outside mall, with a few restaurants. I headed up to Fat Tuesdays, and got myself some din din. Ed the manager had to take some convincing, and proof of credibility before helping me out. Nonetheless, he was happy to do so, and tossed me a club sandwich meal. I thanked him(thanks Eddy!) and walked across the street to the beach. I slumped the bags onto the sand, and dived in to the tray full of food. The seagulls are tres awful, but at night they cannot see, so I was in luck, otherwise the sight of me with a box of food would have had them on me like white on rice, and I know they would have added their special seagull ranch dressing to my sammich.
I walked around the beach a bit, past couples making whoopie in the sand, groups of kids huddled around a funny smelling cigarette, and bums downing the last beers for the night.
I walked back to the main strip, and stopped at the live Reggae show. 4th Dimension is a local favourite, playing free live shows weekly. They had a pretty good crowd formed, and although most of them were sun-burnt kids with beers stains on their Abercrombie shirts, there were some cool people hanging out. I met a super hippie dude name Brad, who told me of some of his hitching travels. We went over to the beach, and he rolled up a you-know-what in the blink of an eye. We sat there watching the reggae and dancing street crowd, and it was a pretty relaxing scene. The sound of the waves crashing behind us, and Bob Marley renditions made for a pretty cool moment.
I thanked him and after about 20mins of chilling out, had to carry on, as I still needed to find a place for the night.
I walked down the strip, and saw a girl on a bike taxi, waiting for some customers. I went over and asked her what she thought of spring breakers, and she felt the same way I did. She told me some stories, and it only reiterated my feelings.
I told her my gig, and she was really into it. She slipped me a $20, and as much as I tried to refuse, stuck it into my pocket, and told me to keep it. I said rather than that, how about letting my couch surf for the night. Her boyfriend Boris was also a bike-taxi and was a super cool dude from the Ukraine with massive dreadlocks.
They were both really cool with letting me couchsurf, and told me to meet them later at midnight. I thanked them, let them carry on carting around the verbally abusive College crowd and promised to be back at 12.
I went to the beach, laid the packs down and flopped on top of them. My shoulders were screaming in pain, but I didn't have to carry them any more. I had found a place for the night, and it was relatively easier than the last few places I searched to do so.
I laid on the beach for a few hours, staring at the sky. The stars were out in full, and I just laid there thinking about all kinds of stuff. It was a really peaceful moment, and I reflected alot about the trip, thought heavily about some stuff, and some one, and had an overwhelming rush of mixed feelings.
I wandered down to the Westin hotel, got the boot after a few minutes on the lobby computer-B1 isn't very inconspicuous.
I went further down the strip, and saw a young guy my age behind the desk at a budget hotel. Most hotel night staff are visible minorities, and that being said, have (thanks to the American system) an immense fear in doing anything they think their boss wouldnt do. Free hotels are always a long shot, but I have had a few, so I thought Id try this one. Despite knowing I had a place, I wanted to see if I was right in my theory.
The Russian guy behind the desk was super cool. He had no problem, as he 'likes people like this' as in carefree backpackers. He handed me a key to room 201, but told me I had to be out before housekeeping at 6am. Realizing this, I said that wasnt doable, as my habit for meeting the housekeepers at 12 is imminent, 6am would just be a bar brawl.
I asked him if I came the next night, and he said if the 'Indian guy is verrkinguh' do not come. He shook his head and gave me this look, and I smiled. "Dey are verdy tieght'. I just nodded. His name was too hard to prounounce, much less attempt to spell, but he was a very cool guy, liked rugby, and helping others out. I shook his hand, thanked him, and told him to have a good night.
It was time to meet Jessie, and I walked down the strip, following her directions. I went over the bridge, and around the 7eleven and waited at the planned water fountain.
A couple of minutes later, and a few wished pennies tossed in, she whizzed around the corner on a shiny blue Vespa.
We joked about how much we were exceeding max capacity, but managed to make it work. The Vespa took off, whirring past the palms. It was actually pretty difficult to round corners, I had to counter balance with all the heavy weight on my back. She held it together, cut a few sidewalks and pulled into their beach home.
They warned me about the mess, but when we got in, there was no mess at all. Three massive couches, a ginormous TV, longboards and snowboards lining the wall, and the smell of incense put me immediately at home. It was a very cool pad, clearly indicating the beach lifestyle. Boris was still at work, and Jessie had picked up a 6pack, so we cracked our Heinekens and cheers-ed to new friends. We chatted about a bunch of stuff, the American life, travel and everything in between.
Boris came home not long after, and we all shared a few pops. They, like myslef, were pretty tired. It was well past 1am, and time for bed. I took my pick of couches, they grabbed me blankets and pillows, and once the head went lateral, was out like a washed up boyband.